I Was Praying For Death When I Saw...

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The show I'm in is currently the least funny comedy ever to appear on the American stage. Hopefully, it won't be when we open, or at least before we close. For the performers out there, what's the worst show you've ever done? For the audiences, what's the worst show you've ever seen?

-- Kymm (hedgehog@hedgehog.net), June 20, 2000


Playing piccolo-and-tuba duets at a Macy's to celebrate the display of the world's largest Silverstone omelet pan, in which they made the world's largest omelet, which actually was just a huge mess of scrambled eggs. 'Rite of Spring' it was not.

-- Colin (ethilrist@prodigy.net), June 20, 2000.

the worst show I've seen is Squonk. We saw it because some friends in another show loved it, and we had $20 second row tickets...the sign outside the theatre said "Leave Your Conscious Mind Behind", and I regret not doing so, as it would have been much better had I been significantly more inebriated. I guess their concept is okay, but it just wasn't working for me. One girl in the show had a nice voice, but that was the only thing I enjoyed. We sat there after about ten minutes looking pleadingly at one another, glancing at the exit sign from time to time. We did end up leaving after about 45 minutes, and I felt awful then and still do, but it was just painful. I've seen both Footloose AND Saturday Night Fever (I'm not proud), and I'd pay full price to see either of them again before I'd see Squonk.

-- melody (melodyp@onramp.net), June 20, 2000.

I was in a fairly bad production of Carousel. It was probably far more enjoyable to be in than to watch it, though. There were some beautiful voices in that show, but some downright nasty acting. I was just an old townslady who didn't have lines and I only lipsynced the songs, so I don't take any responsibility for that one.

The worst show I was ever in was very recently. During student directed one acts I was cast in a very strange little show called Early Frost. It would have made a far better horror movie or novel than a stage production. There were parts for five actresses, but the director could only convince four of us to do it, so she double cast one of the actresses. And two of the actresses (including the one double cast) had never been on stage before. Like ever. And there was this one part of the show where a girl is supposed to pop out of a trunk. The trunk had a false back so that she could crawl backstage and get in. She didn't know how to get backstage, though (why I'm still not sure) so she crawled onstage real slowly during one of my scenes and crawled around behind the trunk and got in. I don't know why people stayed and watched it.

-- Jackie (jackie@jackie.nu), June 20, 2000.

Oh did YOu hit a hot button!!! We live in a town with a musical theare company which has delusions of grandeur and so rarely deserves it.

The absolute worst, bar none, though, was done by a professional company in San Francisco. It was a little pastiche called "A Turn to the Right," which was produced by Buddy Ebsen (whom I stepped on opening night--it was during his Barnaby Jones years and he looked about 30 years older than he did on TV). It was a musical (if I may be so generous to call it that) about making apple pies. That it didn't close at intermission was a miracle.

Second to "A Turn to the Right" would be two productions of Fiddler. One was done by a community theatre in San Francisco and was so bad that the sign language interpreter was the only thing that saved the show (not surprisingly, he won a local award that year for that production).

The other was a production by the aforementioned community theatre. It was HORRIBLY cast, and so awful that I asked Walt if we could leave at intermission and he said "No. Too many people here know us." A good friend was paying Tevye and was so abominable it was very difficult to find the right thing to say after the show was over. Great green room perjury: "That was really an incredible show!" "I've never seen it done quite like that." "That was one of your more memorable performances," etc. All true statements, which can have whatever spin put on them that you want.

We also saw a performance of "On the 20th Century" which was so bad we walked out in the middle of the 2nd act, right past the director.

So many shows...so many stories...

-- Bev Sykes (basykes@dcn.davis.ca.us), June 20, 2000.

Doing improv for a number of years, I have a whole pile of memories about the worst shows I ever performed in.

The very worst, I think, was when we were invited to Provincetown, to perform in a slot vacated by a lesbian comic (Georgia Ragsdale), who hadn't informed the venue that she was leaving until the very week we were supposed to fill in. There was no advertising for us, the stage was far too small (we were a 10-member troupe at the time), and there wasn't enough lighting to cover the whole stage.

And we were told to go be "barkers" for an audience. Go out on the street, an hour before the show, and call out to passers-by who absolutely, definitely did *not* wish to go see improv comedy. We got about 5-15 audience members per night, and they were mostly unaware what improv comedy consisted of. So we got no suggestions, no laughs, no applause, just lots of bewildered silence.

-- Patrick (xingcat@yahoo.com), June 20, 2000.

Junior year at Interlochen the drama department got sucked into an original musical about Jewish children hiding from the Nazis in Warsaw on Christmas Eve, 1943, called "When the War Is Over." A -musical- about running from the Nazis. What more need be said? It's Hitleriffic!

I was also the prop master for this show, and since there were no beach buckets in Michigan in March (and indeed, why should there be?) I had to paint a pail to look like one. Of course I used some sort of scene paint that flaked off almost as soon as it was was dry, and I caught hell from the director.

I believe it was more therapy for the playwright than theatre.


-- Robert B. Dimmick (rbdimmick@earthlink.net), June 20, 2000.

>> A -musical- about running from the Nazis. What more need be said? It's Hitleriffic! <<

Sounds like "Springtime for Hitler!

-- Bev Sykes (basykes@dcn.davis.ca.us), June 20, 2000.

Hey! I was in that!

I thought it was pretty bland, as holocast musicals go. Of course I was in it and never had to sit and watch the damn thing,so I probably never got a good sense of it. I thanked god for the good fortune of a small role and tried to ignore what was going on onstage. I sat in the dressing room playing pinochle. (Wish I could get the title song out of my head now, its a tinny, bitchy little melody.....Thanks Robert!)

I could mention a pretty atrocious touring production of Godspell that a few of us from the forum were in....directed by a talent-free pederast.

Wait, that didn't come out right, I meant a talent-free director, not a talent-free pederast.

-- Tony (dimodia@iimagazine.com), June 20, 2000.

Flower. Drum. Song. Nuff said.

-- Michael (dreamboi81@yahoo.com), June 20, 2000.

Worst show I've ever seen: there are a few. The first time I saw Little Shop of Horrors was at a tiny theatre in Ventura, CA. During "Skid Row" the bums drank water out of Evian bottles and frequently hit the shoes of audience members with water, including my friend's adult daughter. It also had a homemade Audrey II puppet which was falling apart. And aside from the actress playing Audrey (the human character, not the plant), the acting and singing were pretty bad. I've since grown to love the show, but only because I worked on an excellent production and fell in love with the music.

I have a friend who's been in a few stinkers. He's a pretty good actor, except when he has to do a British accent. Then all talent seems to evaporate. Unfortunately, he loves British farce and murder mysteries and is frequently cast in them. *shudder* I haven't the heart to tell him what a horrible accent he has.

I'm sure I've worked on at least a couple of bad productions, but I seem to have blocked them out, as I have only good memories of the shows I've been in or worked on. I've either been very lucky or in deep denial. I'll choose lucky.

-- Carol (webgal@ordinarygoddess.com), June 20, 2000.

"When the War is Over" was in the year that I wasn't at IAA, Junior year, but for some unknown reason I have had part of one of the songs stuck in my head since 1982.

When the war is over
I'll meet my mother
I know she'll be waiting
Just where I said
Underneath the something
So-homething something
With a red bandana on her head

Though mostly people sang With a red banana on her head.

-- Kymm (kymmz1@yahoo.com), June 20, 2000.

Hey! I loved Godspell!! I thought we were all very good. For high school seniors.

-- Kymm (kymmz1@yahoo.com), June 20, 2000.

I don't think we were too bad either, Kymm. Of course, I remember some of the -pathetic- high school audiences we had on that tour, too. Do you remember at that one high school where one guy was reading a comic book through the whole play? Wendy, slinking through the crowd during "Turn Back, O Man," tossed it across the room!


-- Robert (rbdimmick@earthlink.net), June 20, 2000.

Erm..dunno if I should admit to this. I played "Old Major" in an amateur - and I mean *amateur* production of Animal Farm. Not good. I've lost count of the number of seances held to try and apologize to George Orwell. Has anyone else ever seen A.F on stage? Gawd...why am I asking, no one else would *do* that! I hope.

*hangs head in shame*

-- jacqueline (admin@anv.com.au), June 21, 2000.

Actually, yes, I saw it in London about fifteen years ago, a great production!

-- Kymm (kymmz1@yahoo.com), June 21, 2000.

I see between six and twelve high school musicals every spring (the show choir kids I manage are all in high school) and let me tell you, it's almost across the board excruciating. And nearly every time, it's honestly not the kids--it's the direction. I have seen more hideous productions of Hello, Dolly (three last year alone!) and Guys and Dolls (twice this past March) and Anything Goes (I can't count them all) than you can possibly imagine. It gets even worse when the directors try and be clever and do things like Into the Woods. I have yet to see a production of The Music Man in a high school that ran under 3:30.

On the plus side, I saw the best production of Kiss Me, Kate (barring the Bway revival) I have ever seen at a high school. And a truly stellar Oliver. It's not all bad.

The worst production I have ever seen, though, is the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet at the Brooklyn Academy of Music about two years ago. It opened with Hamlet in modern dress scattering "ashes" while the "our sometime sister, now our queen" speech played on an audio track and a sepia toned film of a small boy and his father playing in the snow played behind him. Then suddenly the screen went up and BAM! you were at Claudius' and Gertrude's wedding reception, complete with swing band, firewords and Ophelia in a fuschia bridesmaid's dress that screamed 1989. Hamlet's father showed up in a velvet bathrobe and casually sat on a log to talk of his murder. Hamlet was dressed like the Joel Grey MC from Cabaret in the Players' scenes and Ophelia's mad scene included her scattering pills everywhere and simulating masturbation.

The worst show I was in...hmmm...had to be the one-act I was in my senior year of high school--where the girl playing the lead didn't show up and I had to go onstage and play the character (a secretary) with a script. I sat at a desk the entire thirty minutes. No one else knew their lines either, so I ended up turning most of it into a big monologue.

-- Melissa (centerbeth@yahoo.com), June 21, 2000.

In timely fashion this evening comes a marvelous review of the community theatre company I love to hate, which is doing its second production of "Wizard of Oz." The review is marvelous, the best part being:

Isaacson's frustration was focused on Annie, the cute dog playing Toto for much of the first act. Annie stayed in Dorothy's basket, but just barely. She barked at almost everyone on stage and got into a tug of war with Professor Marvel's wand. She finally disappeared entirely, and Toto became a figment of our imagination in Act Two.


Heading into the home stretch, a backstage decision was made to send out Annie's understudy--name unknown--for the remainder of the show. It was just too much, going from this high-strung brown dog, to no dog at all, to a frightened black dog with ears straight out of Taco Bell's marketing division.

Yo quiero Kansas!

The review ends with:

And Annie the dog may want to consider another line of work...perhaps assertiveness training for Rottweilers and pit bulls.

-- Bev Sykes (basykes@dcn.davis.ca.us), June 21, 2000.

Worst Done: A musical version of Aristophanes' _Birds_, complete with Busby Berkeley dance numbers.

Seen:None of the stuff that took only 2 hours of my life seems so bad at the moment.

-- Catherine deCuir (journals.guide@about.com), June 21, 2000.

A wholly baffling performance of Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children." It probably didn't help that I'm not a fan of Marxist theater.

-- Lucy Huntzinger (huntzinger@mindspring.com), June 21, 2000.

I have two worsts that I was involved with. The first was a one-act that I did for a friend's senior project. "Gymnasium: The High School," was the title, I think. There were three actors: Mother (me), Father (Hans), and son (Chris). We were all supposed to be Russian Jews. Now, I can sing, and I can act reasonably well, and I can do some accents, but not Russian. We sounded like Boris and Natascha. Hans never learned his lines, either, so he ended up sitting at a table for the duration of the play, head bent, reading his lines, while I flitted around the stage to make up for his immobility. Lord, that was bad.

The other was a play I did props for as a favor for a friend. (Friends will get you in trouble every time.) The actors in the play were "second string" actors -- those who hadn't made "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." It was a fairy tale written and directed by our Director of Admissions. He had many talents, but writing and directing were not among those he was blessed with. What he thought was uproarishly funny met with dead silence during performance. I was glad I wasn't onstage during this train wreck.

-- Laura (lbhelfrich@yahoo.com), June 21, 2000.

I know there is something wrong with me because that production of Hamlet Melissa saw sounds great to me.

That said, the worst script I've performed was a two-person play I did in Boston called "Cold Water Flat" and it was a most deadly boring piece of father-daughter pablum. I knew Big Ev and I were really in love when he saw it twice.

The worst actual production I've been in was a Three Sisters I did a year and a half ago. Masha was white, Olga was African-American, and Irina was Asian. They all had accents (French, Jamaican, and Chinese) that they gradually lost by Act II. The old maid spoke entirely in Russian. I had a blast because I was playing that screaming bitch Natasha, but the audience was miserable. My friend Jay told me it made him reconsider ever going to the theater again.

-- Anne (annegrrl@chickmail.com), June 21, 2000.

KymmThat's the part that won't leave my head! I think I'll have to have it surgically removed. So insidious that you knew it and weren't even there that year.

As of Godspell, maybe it wasn't that bad, but I just remember Losing Sandy to a drug bust and Robert and I getting accused of stealing jewelry from a host's bedroom, and Jesus whispering "I hate this fucking play" under his breath numerous times in the middle of the show....Maybe all of that influenced my memories...

-- Tony (dimodia@iimagazine.com), June 21, 2000.

Oh no. My beloved Annegrrl, darling, it was so bad. It was directed by Matthew Warchus and it was a self-indulgent piece of tripe with wretched acting. I swear. I'd seen the Cheek By Jowl production of Much Ado a month prior and it was SO MUCH BETTER, their actors were so much better than the RSC.

The bridesmaid's dress was too much. Really.

-- Melissa (centerbeth@yahoo.com), June 21, 2000.

I always knew that someday I would have to admit this to Melissa, but...

I saw that production in London. And I adored it. It starred Alex Jennings, possibly my favourite Shakespearian actor since I saw him play Benedick and Theseus/Oberon at the RSC a couple of years before. He rocks my world. And Edward Petherbridge as the Ghost. I dug it the most.

Don't think less of me, Melissa.

-- Kymm Zuckert (kymmz1@yahoo.com), June 21, 2000.

Oh god. The absolute worst play I've been in? Gotta be a toss-up. Either the wretched children's theatre production of "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" when I was 17, or the wretched college production of "Sweeney Todd" I did when I was 20.

In LWW I was... well... Aslan. You know, the Lion? The Christ figure? I had a costume made of horrid yellow curtains and I had (are you ready for this?) THREE lines. Aslan. Three lines. One of them was something like, "Come, friends, let us fight for freedom!" It was horrible. And to make matters even worse, the director didn't like children, and it was painfully obvious during rehearsals -- I was one of the oldest members of the cast at 17.

"Sweeney Todd" was another animal all together. The cast, for the most part, was very talented. The main roles, Sweeney, Mrs. Lovett, the Judge, Johanna... they were all filled by excellent singers and actors. The chorus (which I was in) was fairly okay. Your standard college musical chorus, I'd say.

But the director? Dear Christ on the cross. I don't have the words. She had absolutely no business trying to direct. None. She was one of the music professors, and spent most of the production on Valium and dealing with personal crises. On top of being remarkably theatrically UN-talented. She screamed at anyone who tried to make a suggestion about their own role. We rehearsed the first act over and over and over and over, the blocking changing from rehearsal to rehearsal. FINALLY, less than two weeks before opening, she decided to block the second act.

During the performances, props (important ones, like, oh, Sweeney's razor) vanished, requiring huge obvious improvisations. Did Ms. Psycho-Bitch-Director handle crisis with grace? No. No, she didn't. During intermission, she came backstage and hauled off the two leads and proceeded to scream at them and threaten to flunk them (they were doing the show for credit, being music majors) for losing the prop. Needless to say, their performances during the second act were considerably off.

I was so disappointed. I was thrilled to be doing that show, and it was really pitiful. :(

-- Lisa Nichols (lisa@selkie.net), June 21, 2000.

Oh my God, Kymm!! ROTFL.

Don't worry. There were hundreds of people at BAM that day enjoying it. You were in good company. :-)

-- Melissa (centerbeth@yahoo.com), June 21, 2000.

>>But the director? Dear Christ on the cross. I don't have the words. She had absolutely no business trying to direct.<<

Well the Art Center here did "Oliver!" years ago and our kids were in the cast. Our son played Oliver, two of them were orphans and one was Bette. The choreographer was a dancer, but had never choreographed before. She had a cast of thousands of moppets and she apparently figured that if it was music, it had to be choreographed. Every. bloody. word. Rehearsals went on for weeks and every single thing the kids did had an appropriate movement (just let "Food, Glorious Food" run through your mind for a bit...). The kids were as young as 5. Rehearsals were a nighmare. And the choreography just made no sense at all. The set was huge and included two sweeping staircases that went up about 30 or 40 stairs to the upper level. During "Consider Yourself" and had Oliver and Dodger singing *while running up the stairs*. It was a most bizarre production. Kind of Oliver Twist meets Theda Bara or something like that.

-- Bev Sykes (basykes@dcn.davis.ca.us), June 21, 2000.

The worst show I ever did. . . that's a toss up between Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Goodbye, Howard. In the former, I was doing multiple duty as a slave girl, Potiphar's Wife, and part of the Chorus. Many, many costume changes that had to be done in the wings rather than dressing rooms. Some yang thought it would be clever to dump a bucket of water from the catwalk, thus soaking me to the skin in a white gauze slave girl costume that turned transparent the instant before I walked on. So, I was basically naked for the entire audience, which included not only family and friends, but the mayor.

Goodbye Howard was a one act that was just abysmal. There were three of us, it was a comedy, and we were all on stage the entire time. One of the girls didn't bother to learn her lines, and we died. Repeatedly. The girl who had learned her lines and I at one point went through a five minute, improved digression, trying to get the third chick to cough up her very important cue. The next night, we secreted scripts into her newspaper, her magazine, and the phone booth on stage, and we managed to get a few weak chuckles. They were not worth it, believe me.

-- Saundra (scrnwrtr1@home.com), June 21, 2000.

The worst show I ever saw was when I was in second grade--scenes from Macbeth performed by other second-graders. Enough said.

-- Catherine (catcoicrit@earthlink.net), June 22, 2000.

Worst professional show? "Shogun the Musical" on Broadway.

Worst show I ever directed? "Mixed Nuts", not the Carol Burnette one, but another hideous paly of the same name. I took over the direction of it three quarters of the way through because the original director had a breakdown (really!), and the principal of the high school asked me to take over. I don't think anyone in the cast ever learned their lines.

Worst show I ever saw was directed by the same guy who had the breakdown. it was years earlier, and called "The Thirteen Clocks", by James Thurber. Each audience member could have had their own clock and there might have been spares - it was that poorly a

-- KW (wishjrnl@aol.com), June 22, 2000.

When my sister and I were in NYC a few years ago, we saw Grease. I had seen it done as a high school production some years back and really enjoyed it, but on Broadway, it was just horrible. We also saw Miss Saigon, which was better in L.A. We're both heading back to NYC this summer (on separate trips) and hopefully will have better luck. All I know is, I'm seeing Superstar if it kills me.

I also saw a high school production of Once on this Island that was damn good. They did it at my college too-- still pretty good.

The worst thing I was ever in was a combination of The Wiz, Godspell, You're A Good Man Charlie Brown, and Grease (we did highlights from each). You know the drill- junior high students, parents buying their kids' costumes from Goodwill, people who can't sing or dance, all choreographed and directed by a very confused music teacher. One of the guys did "Beauty School Dropout" and right as he hit the last note in the last line ("Going to that malt shop in the sky...") his voice totally cracked. It sounded like: "Skyyy--eeeeeeeee!!!!- eoooooooooo." I felt really bad for him, but I couldnt stop laughing.

My big role in that was as Lucy. When I did my big duet with Charlie Brown, I remember hitting some spectacular notes. I now know I was seriously deluding myself because I remember kids in the front row who were actually holding their hands over their ears, and I was all, "Wow, I must be really loud and good."

-- Monique (megbyb@hotmail.com), June 24, 2000.

I once saw a community theatre production of "The Odontoid Process."

It was based on the true story of a woman who was born without the round bone at the base of the skull, the Odontoid, that actually helps keep the head straight, so she went through her early years with her head flopped to one side.

The play was about how she suffered the injustices of an uncaring world and how a miracle worker doctor fixed it so she no longer had a floppy head.

Boy was it bad. The only reason I went was because my dad played one of the doctors. Unfortunately, I had to sit through the first act before he came on stage.

-- Roger Bixby (rbix@earthlink.net), June 26, 2000.

I was in a production of "A Wonderful Life," a staged version of the much-loved holiday movie. Only it was a musical. Music by the guy who wrote the music to many "Sesame Street" tunes, such as "Rubber Ducky." Lyrics by the guy who did lyrics for "Fiddler On The Roof." Therefore, the cast was equally horrid. God save the next community theatre who puts on THAT mess...

-- Sean Grady-Lawler (KingofDisneyland@aol.com), January 16, 2002.

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